Monday, 31 December 2012

Making the cut

I am (smugly) pleased to report that this year the hand made Christmas present tally came to

2 scarves
1 tiny sweater

1 patchwork quilt
and a new wardrobe for Daphne

I also put together a kit for DD2 to knit a cushion, I'm counting this as a handmade present because the yarn is from a lovely indie dyer, the needles from the Lantern Moon cooperative and instead of a pattern I made a tiny cushion to illustrate what I had in mind.  I also included a promise, that I would finish the cushion myself if it proved too much.  More of the cushion and some mother daughter bonding later (and an explanation of what constitutes Daphne's wardrobe)

The reason for modest ambitions in the hand made present department was, as you may recall, last year despite knitting right up to Christmas Eve there was much that I had left undone.  The UFOs included one pair of socks knitted up to the instep increases and yarn for another pair that never got done.

So as well as being determined not to get into such a frenzy this year I have also resolved to finish some of the many projects I have in hand and make up a large proportion of my stash before buying more yarn (this must be a generic knitters resolution, I wonder how many people reading this have resolved the same?)

So beginning with the socks.  JTH has need of comfy socks so I decided to complete the half finished pair for him, no need to worry about the third pair, I seem to have used the yarn for something else.

But it was not till I began to check how long the leg needed to be that I discovered how long the feet were.  It's a big advantage with toe up two at a time socks is you can try on as you go, it's only a shame I didn't think of doing this before increasing for the instep.  The socks were clearly far too long in the foot.  However JTH suggested I carried on, finish the socks and wash them as 'they are sure to shrink in the wash'.  Well there was little hope that there would be enough shrinkage to make these babies fit (particularly as the yarn is Rowan super-wash wool).  The problem being that when I began these socks I intended them for someone with a shoe size of 13 not 10

If they were to be wearable at all they had to be shortened by nearly two inches and the toe re-knitted .  I could have drawn a thread at roughly the place that the new toe decreasing needed to start but instead I decided to cut off the toe and pull back the cut part till I achieved a complete row of stitches to pick up.  

Quick but messy, scattering poodle clippings of curly black wool all over the place!  But now the re-modelled socks fit quite well

Are these the first pair of Toe Up (and down) 2 at a Time Socks, I wonder?

Happy New Year (do please let me know your knitting resolutions in the comments section, I'd love to know)



Monday, 24 December 2012

The night before Christmas

This year the excitement of a visit from Father Christmas has returned.  I'm not sure who is more excited, the Little Model or her parents



Saturday, 22 December 2012

Missing a beat

I guess it is inevitable, as much as I try not to join in the preparation panic that possesses so many people at this time of year I was so busy yesterday that I had no time to blog.  So today I give you ...

A star for 21st of December and

Bells for the 22nd



Thursday, 20 December 2012

On a journey

I took today's  little addition to the Advent Wreath out with me today.  I felt I was sure to find somewhere interesting to photograph it.


But when I arrived at the place I was visiting I was politely asked to sign a confidentiality agreement and not to take any photographs.  Then on the cold wet journey home with multiple delays and extra changes of very overcrowded trains, a journey which should have taken 2 hours taking 4 1/2 I nearly forgot entirely until I spotted this angle



Wednesday, 19 December 2012

more baking

Today's little knitted object inspired my (rather hasty) Christmas cake decoration



Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Run run as fast as you can...

You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man

Today was baking day, beginning with mince pies - another particularly British Christmas custom.  When I blogged the figgy pudding , Knitrageous reminded me that eating rich fruit pies and pudding made months, even years, before is not a universal way of celebrating Christmas when she said she was not sure what it was.  Of course if you know what I am talking about you can stop reading now!

In brief you lob lots of of mixed dried fruit, brown sugar, suet, grated apple, almonds, spices, zest and juice of oranges and brandy in a big mixing bowl.  Give it a stir every time you pass by the bowl for the next few days, (no need to resist tasting from time to time either).   Put half in jars with good fitting lids.  This is the mince,  and needs to be put to mature in a cool place for at least 2 months.  This year I'm using up the mince I made last year, it still tastes good all I did was liven it up with a little more brandy.  The mince is used to make little pies. I always use puff pastry - I believe Christmas is no time to worry about calorie intake or the condition of my arteries!

Add some flour, breadcrumbs and eggs to the other half of the mixture and fill small pudding bowls about 2/3 full.  Cover with greased grease-proof paper and tie a mob cap of paper on the top.  Put in a pan of water, the water should come about 1/2 way up the bowl and simmer for hours.  I simmer my puddings in my slow pot, 24 hours for each pudding.  Again keep for at least 2 months, longer if possible - the longer you keep them the blacker they get and black is good (like ancient oak).  On Christmas day I heat it up the same way as I cook it and set it alight with warmed brandy (crepes suzette fashion) before carrying it into the dinning room and serving it with cream and brandy butter

There are lots of recipes on line which will give you  measurements for all the ingredients.  Mince is so called because it used to contain actual minced (ground) beef.  I have never tasted mince pies with meat but might try it one day, although I will not be so lax about storage!



Monday, 17 December 2012

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Let it snow

Cold and frosty this morning but no snow so resorted to a little trickery for this shot

16 December



Saturday, 15 December 2012

Sending love to the people of Newtown Connecticut

Making christmas star and angel cookies  for the grandchildren this morning my thoughts were with those bereaved families whose children did not come home yesterday.  And that I have never seen a president cry before

15th December



Friday, 14 December 2012

So give us some figgy pudding

We all want figgy pudding, we all want figgy pudding

How tastes change, in our household we always have an alternative to Christmas pudding as the rich fruity pudding (with or without figs) is not to everyone's taste.



Thursday, 13 December 2012

On the 13th day of Advent...

I just happened to be

On Westminster Bridge (with the 13th piece of the advent wreath in my pocket)



Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Santa arrives in the homes of all good children during the night before Christmas

So they say...



Tuesday, 11 December 2012

11th day

A tiny shopping basket

So very appropriate as I set off to meet a very good friend for lunch, curtain hand-over (more of that later) and some serious shopping. My friend lives near a lovely Cotswold market town, an ideal place for Christmas shopping when you have No Idea What To Buy Anyone



Monday, 10 December 2012

10 December

Who first decided that the candy cane should join the Christmas decoration lexicon?

Who knows, but last year when asked by Father Christmas what she would like for Christmas The Little Model (aged 2 1/2) said 'a candy cane'. A modest request that is going to become a tradition



Sunday, 9 December 2012

Second Sunday in Advent

An angel to remind us of the old stories. The angel who appeared to Mary telling her she would, in nine months, give birth to the Messiah and later the heavenly host appearing to shepherds announcing the Messiah's birth

... conjuring up the sight and sounds of the service of nine lessons and carols, the candle-light, voices intoning the familiar words and the smell of a pine tree.

Comfort and joy



Saturday, 8 December 2012

Sixteen days to go

Do you remember making paper chains? Buying packs of coloured paper strips, glued on one edge? As a small child the simple task seemed huge, fraught with problems, choose the colour carefully, don't lick all the glue off, line the edges up neatly... Oh I forgot to loop the strip through the last link!

I love the knitters take on these decorations



Friday, 7 December 2012

Advent 7


                   Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
                         Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

( a little early perhaps)



Thursday, 6 December 2012

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


The Fifth of December

We had our first snowfall of the winter in the South of England last night.  We woke to lightest sprinkling of white, blades of grass still visible and a bright cold sun



Tuesday, 4 December 2012

O Tannenbaum

O Christmas Tree O Christmas Tree

It may have been the first Christmas song I learned at school.  I loved the tune though puzzling a little at the line 'I love your shining branches' wondering how a tree's branches could shine, imagining a dark tree deep in a German pine forest, not the one glittering with decorations in my house

But today looking up the lyrics I think my childhood self may have conflated the words a little

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!
In beauty green will always grow
Through summer sun and winter snow.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
You are the tree most loved!
How often you give us delight
In brightly shining Christmas light!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
You are the tree most loved!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
Your beauty green will teach me
That hope and love will ever be
The way to joy and peace for me.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
Your beauty green will teach me.



Monday, 3 December 2012

Gingerbread House

Easily recognisable, it's the witch's house from the Hansel and Gretel story, the model for all those booths at German frost markets and  many Christmas decorations.

But, why? What have snow covered forest cabins got to do with Christmas?  Where did the tradition originate?  Googling did not help this time.  I know they came from Germany, but how did gingerbread houses become part of their Christmas traditions?

I have a feeling I am going to ask that question quite a lot as I think about the meaning and origins of many items on the Advent wreath



Sunday, 2 December 2012

2 December

I love the cold crispy mornings of winter, the sparkly frost on the roofs and icy blue skies but would never venture out without a few layers of woolly clothes.

A tiny mitten added to the advent wreath today



Saturday, 1 December 2012


Apart from the over ambitious annual knitting plans  I am very relaxed about Christmas this year. That's despite it being December 1st, my having bought just one present (a beautiful wooden lorry with a magnetic crane to lift the blocks off for the Little Model's Little Brother) and finished only one handmade present.  No baking done for the freezer, no mincemeat or cake make, not even wrapping paper or cards bought because I have decided to make my own this year.

Why so chilled? Why no frenzied list making? I'm not sure really but I like this new relaxed me and perhaps it has something to do with having booked a Whole Three Weeks off work beginning on the 13th December .

But I have knitted an advent garland and today we prepared to hang the first item in the little tree in the hallway.  

A candle

Waking this morning at 5.30 and lying awake in the dark for half an hour before putting on all the lights and making coffee it was not hard to understand why many winter festivals are celebrated with candles.  There is no need for a candle early in a summers morning, watching the dawn in russet mantle clad creeping over your personal battlement or on a warm balmy night as you sit in the garden at nearly ten enjoying the twilight.  But in the winter evening's dusk there is something especially comforting about candle light (to say nothing about how it enhances the complexion)

So it pleases me that the instructions for the knitted advent calendar begin with a candle



Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Knitty dilemma

Do you ever find it hard to decide whether a Finished Object is a triumph or a disaster?  I might have mentioned slouchy hats made from sparkly yarn last week; about all the cooing over the idea at knitting group and the rushing out to get yarn.  Even after some mods (tighter here, bigger there....) the two hats took me just two evenings to make.  The yarn is certainly very pretty

The sparkly bits (silver sequins) pop out just a little, the colours are perfect and yarn (despite my prejudice against synthetic fibre) is soft with just the right amount of fluffiness.  BUT it was a bit of a different story when I showed them to Dear Daughters 1&2. There were hoots of derision and gales of laughter.

DD1 said they reminded her of hats worn to cover hair loss, worse DD2 said they were like something Nora Batty would wear.  The little Model put one on her daddy's head and the other on Little Brother.  LB loved playing peek a boo, the hat came down to his shoulders.

Perhaps I need a rethink...  But I have so much to do.  There is this quilt

Well not actually this quilt.  This is the prototype/pattern for the main event, and is only 50cm square, I wanted to see how piece the colours together and whether they went with the sample piece of wall paper (OK I think)

The main event has reached this stage

So you can see I am a bit pressed for time but the question is what to do with the hats?  They were destined for non-knitting-friends.  Now I know that even if they would never dream of actually wearing the item, knitters would look at the soul of the FO.  I'm not saying that NKF's don't have soul - they do, in buckets but knitters can go a bit off piste about some things that NKs find it hard to grasp. 

For instance all knitters are going to understand AlliDecks need to travel halfway across the globe with two spinning wheels and more than one packing case of yarn.  Or the raptures we can go into when there is the mention of Brittany needles or Yarn from Blue Faced Leicester Sheep but we don't expect others to do the same.  I might have raised the bar a little too high last year with cashmere gloves - but what do you think?  Give or keep as dog walking hats? (if I ever have a dog!)



Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Planning and prioritising

There is a small problem with a resolve not to begin Christmas shopping till at least 1 December yet nothing in your stash is remotely suitable for the presents you want to make.  It's called TIME, it's needed for making things, you can't beat it.  So although I have got out my Christmas note book and begun planning...

I also need to buy some yarn NOW if I'm going to make the presents on time.

Last night at Knitting group we all ooohed and aaahed over a little something Claire had made.  Perfect I thought for presents - but no, it simply won't do in any of the yarn in my stash (there's a vital little something missins).  This from the position of lying in bed thinking this morning.  No need to actually go to the stash in the cupboard over the stairs.  No, no need to risk life and limb and an avalanche by opening that door before Christmas.  Which reminds me of something else said last night - Cathy admitted to not opening any cupboard door in her house in the presence of visitors.

So its off to the yarn shop I go later this morning to buy just the right stuff for the project.

It is going to mean one or two other projects are put on the back burner till I finish the Christmas projects.  But at least I have finished my summer knitting project and even though it is fine and cottony it is still looking good with a pair of black trousers.

The pattern is so very heavily modified, I shall probably write it up for downloading from Ravelry (but not till after Christmas).  The yarn I chose is twice as fine as the original pattern, so I cast on twice the stitches. I prefer to knit as much as possible without the need for seams, so the only ones are the under arm and sewing the band on.  The band itself is an invention, a wide'ish piece of rib meandering around the neck, in two pieces from the bottom up that meet at the back neck with a seam made with a three needle bind off.

So I don't feel too bad putting aside the half finished cardigan,

The P3 shawl

A replacement for the MLI  (I know!  This is my oldest WIP)

and the modular blanket.

I can pick them up later.

But I am still going to fit in some more hats for the veterans and one other secret project that I shall reveal day by day in December (that's a clue :-))



Tuesday, 6 November 2012


Golden days

The last rose of summer

November 5th

Wovember and remembering to wear wool

As knitters we can put away the fine cottons and linen threads we knitted up in the warm days of summer and look forward to knitting socks and chunky sweaters that are made in a week of watching winter evening fodder on the TV.  But it's not so jolly and cosy if you are homeless.

During a summer I met a man at a cricket match (as you do).  In between precious few overs of cricket, as we watched the skies for a clear patch so that the covers could come off and play resume, he told me about Veterans Aid.  An organisation that for the past 80 years has been working to look after former members of our armed forces who need help.  Men and women who spent a good part of their best years serving our country - serving us. Not only combatants but medical personnel, caterers and admin support.  While most men and women who leave our armed forces go on to live happy fulfilled lives some do not and without the support of an organisation like Veterans Aid would end their days sleeping rough, very often seriously ill as well.

Well during the course of our conversation I told this chap that I was a knitter and he (knowledgeable man that he is) asked if I belonged to a knitting group and if so would we like to make some hats for his clients.

Tracey, Joan and I  made just six

Knowing they were mainly for men we had to curb our enthusiasm for fancy yarns in bright colours

But some brightness snuck in

I was really touched by the e mail we received from Colonel Cordoza who works at the veteran's drop in centre in Buckingham Palace Road.  He told me about a nurse who had served in the Queen Alexandra's Royal Nursing Service, then for 35 years in the NHS who became ill and unable to cope with a problem at her home.  She was made homeless and had to sleep rough in a park.

Once a nurse?  like me!  Depression? like me!  Without the support we receive from family and friends none of us could say we would not have found ourselves in such desperate circumstances.  I am happy to say that she is now being well looked after and will be supported first in her convalescence and then as she moves into a new home, all by Veterans Aid.

If I sound a bit like the BBC good causes appeal I don't apologise.  We all see people on the streets, particularly in London and we may buy a copy of the Big Issue from time to time to do our bit but this is a call to arms to knitters.

Please get out your pointy sticks and make something warm for someone this winter.  Perhaps your local shelter or perhaps send hats, gloves and scarves to:-

Colonel G Cardoza
Veterans Aid
40 Buckingham Palace Road
London SW1W 0RE




My Google stats tell me I get readers from all over the world but that my second largest number of visitors are in N America.  Hurricane Sandy has left a lot of people without a warm home or warm clothes.  So if you are from across the pond you may like to visit Knitting for New York and New Jersey and send your hats and other warm things there (saving on postage to spend more on yarn)

Kathleen is from N America but living in Oxford UK and blogs as Knit Like You Mean it.  She has linked to my blog this week and told me about this group.  There is an added incentive to visiting her blog this week as she has a great give away going on there